Night-time eating is a bit of a confusing subject. Perhaps you’ve heard eating at night will cause you to gain weight. The answer is….maybe. Depending on what you’re eating and if your sleep is not regular or sufficient, yes, you could.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest reported on a study where test subjects who ate between 11 pm and 5 am on at least one night gained, on average, 14 pounds over the next three years. The subjects who didn’t eat between those hours, only gained 4 pounds over the following three years.
The subjects who ate late at night were consuming 300 more calories than those who were not late eaters.
Also, if you’re up late at night eating, this might also mean you aren’t getting adequate sleep. Less sleep can also mean more calories and more weight.
The Harvard School of Health states that there are numerous studies showing a link between insufficient sleep and obesity. Some studies show that those who sleep less, tend to eat late at night and consume an average of 550 extra calories between 10pm and 4am.
Sleep deprivation has effects on brain activity and may change reward and impulse control. Other research has found that lack of sleep raises blood sugar, makes insulin less effective, and boosts the hormone (ghrelin) that signals hunger.
If you get enough sleep and manage your calories, you shouldn’t have a problem with what time of day you eat. So the thought that “eating after 7pm will cause you to gain weight” is untrue….unless you’re eating more calories than you should. Eating extra calories at ANY time, day or night, will result in weight gain.
Bottom line: Get adequate sleep and keep your calories under control. If night-time is a trigger to eat when you are alone, find other things to keep you occupied or talk with a therapist.
For more information on sleep deprivation and health see Sleep-More Important Than You Know.
Mandy Seay is a registered and licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She works as a nutrition consultant in Austin, Texas, specializing in diabetes, weight loss, lipid control, and preventative nutrition. For more health articles and nutrition information, check out Mandy’s website Nutritionistics.